The Banks of the Bièvre near Bicêtre, ca. 1908-09. Henri Rousseau. Oil on canvas. Gift of Marshall Field, 1939.
Rousseau identified the subject of this painting in a handwritten note, affixed to its stretcher, dated 1909, the year he consigned it for sale to the dealer Ambroise Vollard. The scene depicts the landscape around Bicêtre, a working-class community on the southern edge of Paris near the Bièvre river (now buried underground as it courses through the city). In Rousseau’s day, the waterway was heavily polluted, but certain spots still offered picturesque views, as suggested by the figures in peasant dress on the tree-lined path at left, and the glimpse of the seventeenth-century aqueduc d’Arcueil in the background.